It's that time of the season at the Memphis City Council when insanity and reason always appears headed toward a collision course of monumental proportions.
Approving the city budget, when annually men and women "talk the talk, but seldom walk the walk" of unpopular budget cutting.
"We have to cut this city budget if we're going to avoid a tax increase. Especially, when we have some Council members who want to give a full 4.6 percent pay raise to some employees," says Councilman Jim Strickland.
It's that time of the season when the "sacred cows" of public safety, Memphis Fire and Police Departments make their first passes at trying to push through budget increases as the Council preaches austerity to every other division of city government. A much more relaxed MPD Director Toney Armstrong made a fact-filled dollars and cents presentation to mostly responsive budget committee members.
"There are no bells and whistles in this budget. 87 percent was personnel. So, you can see that does leave 13 percent for everything else. So, we think we presented a budget that was full of essentials," said Armstrong.
The "essentials" included thousands for more ammunition. A little over a million for overtime costs. 750-thousand for maintenance on four aging department owned helicopters. By the way, even though he didn't asked for one, Armstrong estimated a new copter would cost three million dollars. As for the 1.4 million dollars in annual rent money paid to the county to house the MPD Command Staff at 201 Poplar, the Director indicated a change would do him good. A visit to the past might very well be in the MPD's future at the long abandoned former police station on Adams.
"I think it just makes sense for us to look at getting our own building, our own headquarters. So, I'm pretty passionate and dogmatic about that," added Armstrong.
But, there was no passion displayed by Armstrong any more than when a motion was made to cut his budget for police training by nearly three million dollars, a deduction that could have also affected the promotional process for Sergeants, Lieutenants and Lt. Colonels.
Armstrong responded, "When you cut one rank it affects another. When you don't allow me to hire, you don't allow me to hire. You don't allow me to put people through the academy, then I can't move forward with other promotions, and it stagnates the police department."
Of course the cut proposal by budget-minded Councilman Harold Collins went down in flames on a voice vote. Remember, we're still in the early stages of that time of the season. There's still plenty of time to "talk the talk."
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